Channel 4 have released a new YouGov poll of marginal seats that projects a Conservative majority of between 60-70 seats were it to be repeated at a general election.
The last time YouGov carried out a marginals poll like this was at the tail end of October, when the Labour lead in national polls had narrowed to high single figures, but had get to reach the tighter position we saw towards the end of last year. Back then it showed the shares of support in the target seats at CON 43%, LAB 38%, LDEM 12%. Today that has moved to CON 43%, LAB 36%, LDEM 13% – so there has been a slight move against Labour. This is, again, pretty much in line with YouGov’s national polls which showed a 8 point Tory lead back in October and an 11 point Tory lead now. The movements in the marginal seats seem to be much the same as the national picture.
Expectations on the economy are low – only 14% say they agree with the government’s predictions that the economy will turn around this year. 41% think Britain will not come out of recession till 2010 and 32% think it will be even longer. They are also very pessimistic about whether the government’s actions to tackle the crisis will work. A rather pathetic 2% think they will make a big difference, 23% think they will make a small difference, but that this is worth the money. 35% think they will make a small difference and are a waste of money, 29% think they will do nothing at all.
Taking a slightly wider view on how the government have responded to the crisis, the public in marginal seats are split more evenly. 12% think they have responded well, 32% think have moved in the right direction, albeit not quickly or effectively enough – giving about 44% of people in marginal seats with a broadly positive view. In contrast, 18% think their strategy is wrong and they are doing more harm than good and 26% think they are taking panic measures with no clear strategy at all.
A large majority of people in marginals expect that the borrowing now will result in spending cuts or tax hikes later, the only difference is how large they expect them to be. 32% expect some spending cuts or tax hikes, 40% expect “big” cuts or tax hikes. Only 9% expect ecnonomic growth alone to deal with the present borrowing.
Moving on, there is agreement (58% agree, 33% disagree) that Gordon Brown is refusing to acknowledge the depth of the crisis. However, there is also agreement that “David Cameron is talking the economy down for political purposes” – 53% agree, 30% disagree. There is also strong agreement that the last Conservative government did little or nothing to help the victims of recession in the 1980s. This statement was agreed with by 60% of people, however, a significant minority (40%) of those people expected that David Cameron would do far more to help people than Thatcher’s government did in the 1980s.
Another question that caught my eye was on who was to blame for Britain’s economic problems. There have been countless polls asking this sort of question over the past months, but annoyingly few that have repeated the same wording, letting us see if people are blaming the government more or less as time passes and arguments come and go. Here YouGov have used the same words, and we can see the position has steadied, with blame firmly upon the banks. When YouGov first asked the question of people in marginal seats in September blame was spread between the general international situation in the food and energy markets (26%), irresponsible banks (36%) and the government’s policies (29%). By October blame has focused squarely upon the banks (61%, with 11% saying general international situation and 21% the government). Today’s poll shows little change, 7% international conditions, 63% the banks and 22% the government.
Finally, YouGov asked if people in marginal seats thought George Osborne or Ken Clarke would make a better chancellor after the next election. 39% backed Ken to George’s 15%. Amongst Tory voters they backed Ken by 46% to 28% for George.